Keith Wildenberg is a tall man whose hawkish face is topped with a mop of shaggy curls. He is leaning over my kitchen counter and gesturing with a wine glass as he recalls the days of his youth: “So many of the evangelical [Catholic] kids were the queer kids,” he says, meaning the Catholic students who gave witness talks at teen retreats and sought out informal ways to share their faith. “We had the best testimonies!”
Mr. Wildenberg first heard gay people mentioned in a Catholic context in 1978, when he was in sixth grade. He recalls that a classmate “made a crack about sodomy,” and the religious sister leading the class informed them that the sin of Sodom wasn’t about sex, and that “homosexuals deserve our compassion.” Although he wasn’t out of the closet then, Mr. Wildenberg already had begun to realize that he was an outsider in some painful way connected to his sexuality. Still, his faith flourished in high school, with plenty of encouragement from priests and teachers. He spent some time discerning the priesthood but instead moved to San Francisco—where he thought all gay men eventually ended up—and is now semi-retired and sings in his church’s schola cantorum. After a long journey with his faith, he is now a practicing Catholic on fire to evangelize.
(image of a rainbow over a Methodist Episcopal church used under a Creative Commons license)